In November 1902 U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt went hunting with a group led by Mississipi Governer Andrew H. Longinow. During the trip some of Roosevelt’s attendants clubbed an American Black Bear and tied it to a tree before suggesting that Roosevelt shoot the animal. Although the President conceded that the bear should be killed to put it out of its misery he refused to shoot it himself, stating that it would be unsportsmanlike to kill the cornered animal. News of the hunting incident spread, and when Morris Michtom saw the depiction of Roosevelt and the bear in a political cartoon later that month, he created a new toy — a stuffed bear cub. Mitchom obtained the President’s permission to call it “Teddy’s bear”, and by 1906 the popular “teddy bear” was being manufactured across the nation. It could be seen accompanying women wherever they went and posing with children as they were photographed. Roosevelt even used the teddy bear as a symbol for his bid for re-election.
The earliest teddy bears actually bore a resemblance to real bears, crafted with long snouts and beady eyes. Since then, teddy bears have evolved into cute and cuddly creatures with large eyes, small noses, and adorable facial features. They have remained a popular toy throughout the past century and, with franchises like the Care Bears and Teddy Ruxpin, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity during my childhood. And now parent and children can do more than cuddle with their bears: with the advent of “do-it-yourself” chains like Build-A-Bear Workshop and Wacky Bear Factory, crafting a treasured friend has become a fun family activity.
I grew up surrounded by hoards of stuffed animals, but I don’t recall having very many teddy bears (dogs were my favorite). My mom still has the Gund teddy bear she’s had since infancy (“Cubby Gun’s” scars show years of love), but it’s very possible he was the only teddy bear in our house during parts of my childhood. When I was a teenager my parents and I took a road trip through New England and while we were in Vermont we toured the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Burlington. The Vermont Teddy Bear factory is famous for their custom bears, quality, and lifetime guarantee. I’ll never forget watching as the stuffed toys were so lovingly created. Last year, on my birthday, I was lucky enough to become Mom to one of these beautiful bears!